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The Thrill of Calling Plays on My Phone

Guest Post from Screaming Eagles fan and veteran play-caller Andy Kossak

How many times through the years have all of us as football fans yelled at the television about a play that was called on 2nd-and-8? We know for sure our play idea would’ve had much more success than what our favorite team just went with, right? If only we had the chance to prove it with some sort of real-life Madden. Boom!

It was last year in late April when I first stumbled upon an article in the Wall Street Journal that shared the news that a new football league was forming where fans would have the ability to call plays for the teams to run. That’s right. As of that moment, I realized we all were going to have the ability to become live, armchair offensive coordinators, and there would be no going back.

I had to learn more and try it out for myself. When I did, I quickly found out that this new concept wasn’t just exciting; it was borderline addicting.

To get started on becoming the world’s next great play caller, all I had to do was install an app for the Salt Lake Screaming Eagles. They were the team that was trying out this new method of play calling in the Indoor Football League against squads such as the Arizona Rattlers, Colorado Crush, and Green Bay Blizzard.

The Screaming Eagles’ games were broadcast live on Twitch. Once tuned in, all that had to be done was to get ready for kickoff and get prepared to start being part of the offensive play-calling process.

When the Screaming Eagles were on offense, the app provided a quick chance to pick from a handful of pre-selected play choices. I could choose from run, pass, or special teams options, and the team would run the play that got the most votes from everyone out there like me that knows more than the so-called experts.

The chosen play was relayed to head coach Matthew Sauk, and he then passed that information on to quarterback Verlon Reed. Reed would then inform his teammates in the huddle of the play, and they’d run it on the field.

Keep in mind, all of the above had to happen in a matter of seconds, as the Screaming Eagles weren’t given any bonus time to wait for plays to be voted on, information to be passed along, and so on. They faced the same play clock as everyone else, so everything was happening on the fly.

The app was very user-friendly and made it easy to choose from the selection of plays. Once I made my choice, it was always interesting to see if that would be the play that won the vote or if a majority voted to do something else. When a play I chose didn’t get run, it kind of made me think about how offensive coordinators must feel when the head coach negates their choice and says to do something else.

The thrill of having to make a quick decision based on down and distance, where the offense was on the field, how much time there was to go in the game, etc., is an incredible rush for a football fan on the outside who always wanted to be on the inside.

The only problem with the whole concept is the season came to an end, but, as you know, there’s better news ahead. Instead of just one team, there’s now a league of teams for whom to call plays, as the Fan Controlled Football League kicks off later this year. I don’t know about you, but I’m more than ready to play offensive coordinator again. Opening day can’t get here soon enough.

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#WhatIsACatch?

What is a catch?

It seems like such a basic question. What could be more intuitive to the game of football than the concept of literal possession of the football?

And yet week in and week out, social media is flooded with the now ubiquitous hashtag #WhatIsACatch? (with myriad references to the point of reaching meme status to #DezCaughtIt, aka Dez Bryant’s “drop” in the 2014 NFL Playoffs against the Green Bay Packers – one Cowboys fan went so far as to make the declaration in his recent obituary).

Last night, during Super Bowl LII between the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles, the hashtag returned with a vengeance – not once, but twice – influencing two of the most crucial plays in the epic shootout that became an instant classic in the football world.

Unfortunately for Patriots fans, both plays were in fact ruled catches in favor of the Eagles. And both plays distinctly resembled previously overturned catches from earlier this year that went in the Patriots favor.

The first of these “catches” was made by Eagles running back Corey Clement on 3rd and 6 from the Patriots 22-yard line. Quarterback Nick Foles lofted a gorgeous ball to the back of the end zone where Clement made a phenomenal play on the ball for a key score to put the Eagles up 10. But upon replay, it seemed pretty evident that Clement briefly lost possession of the ball, and when he regained it, he no longer had two feet in bounds.

The play resembled a contreversial call from earlier in the season, when officials overturned a touchdown by New York Jets Tight End Austin Sefarian-Jenkins (also against the Patriots), saying that he briefly lost possession of the ball, and by the time he regained possession, he was out-of-bounds.

In that instance, it had been ruled that Sefarian-Jenkins actually fumbled the ball, resulting in a touchback and giving the Patriots the ball on the 20-yard line, but both that play and the Clement catch were essentially judgements of retaining possession and foot placement.

Chris Collinsworth, founder of Pro Football Focus, was announcing the game and voiced his opinion that the catch would be overturned. Former Head of Officiating for the NFL Dean Blandino took to Twitter in opposition of Collinsworth.

In the end, the officials went with the NFL’s built-in cop out (‘the play stands as called’) to keep the initial call of a catch in place. This is basically the NFL’s way of saying, “we don’t know how to accurately rule this play, so we might as well just go with whatever the referee said on the spot even though our slow motion replays yield a more clearly definitive view than the referee desperately trying to keep up with all-world athletes sprinting on the fly.”

The Eagles took a two-score lead, whereas if they play had been ruled incomplete, they would have been forced to attempt a field goal on the next play (and given the wacky special teams last night, WHO KNOWS what would have happened then?).

The second non-reversal of the game was what ended up being the Super Bowl-winning score by Eagles Tight End Zach Ertz with just over two minutes remaining. Ertz made the catch just a couple yards short of the end zone, and then twisted his body to hurdle over Patriots Safety Devin McCourty to take the ball into the end zone. When Ertz slammed to the ground, the ball popped loose from his grip.

The play nearly identically resembled a play from just weeks ago, when Pittsburgh Steelers Tight End Jesse James had a touchdown catch overturned (also against the Patriots) that likely would have been the game-winning score. James also caught the ball short of the end zone, dove for the touchdown, and had the ball pop out when he hit the ground. The officials ruled that he was still going to the ground in the process of securing possession, and thus did not complete the catch.

Where James was ruled to have not yet established possession, Ertz was ruled to have completed the catch and then made a separate move to go for the score, meaning that the second the ball broke the plane of the goal line, he had scored a touchdown, and the ball popping out of his hands was technically a dead ball. If the catch had been overturned, the Eagles again would have been forced to kick a field goal, which would have given them a slim two-point lead with two minutes remaining.

Few are complaining about the Ertz ruling, but it is clearly close enough to the James play to warrant some eyebrow raising. Alongside “What is a catch?” and “What constitutes possession” is “What is a football move?” Even if these two plays, as broken down by SB Nation, are different enough to yield a clear ruling going two ways, there is a gray area in there that would drive fans crazy.

What is a catch?

Roger Goodell says that he wants the barometer for what constitutes a catch to be something where if you polled a random bar during a football game, they would all inherently know the answer.

The problem with this assessment, of course, is that people (especially drunk fans watching a game at a bar) disagree about calls ALL THE TIME. Football is a highly ambiguous sport by its nature. Think about the act of spotting the ball: it seems like a crucial element to the game – gauging where the last play ended – and yet in practice, it is so flippant and subjective, with referees eyeballing the play on the fly and just rolling into the next play (save the rare replay challenge of a spot, which is almost never overturned).

Goodell has already announced that the rule will be “reviewed” in time for the 2018 season – whatever that means.

We all know what constitutes a catch most of the time, but boy-oh-boy does that gray area seem to poke its head out during the most inopportune moments, slapping the players, coaches, and fans alike across the face with a dose of gridiron reality: this game is imprecise.

They say you could call holding on any play. Same goes for pass interference. Offensive Tackles routinely line up too far off the line of scrimmage, trying to get a head start on the Defensive End coming around the corner to get to the Quarterback. But these are penalties, meant to be left to the discretion of the officials.

What is a catch? What is possession?

The dirty little secret about the #WhatIsACatch hashtag movement is that making the rule (and having it be applicable to all the random situations that consistently arise that have seemingly never previously been accounted for) is not easy. For being such a simple act (possession of the football) that is so integral to the premise of the sport of football, finding the proper arrangement of words that is applicable and obvious to all situations is tough work.

And that’s why we need your help!

In the FCFL, the FANS are tasked with every level of football operations. Sure, calling plays and voting on draft picks is great fun, but not every aspect of league management is meant to be so easy. Agreeing to a rulebook is tough work, but we think that you are up to the task.

In the coming months leading up to our first kickoff, FCFL Commissioner Ray Austin and Football Coach of the Fans Shawn Liotta will be speaking with dozens and hundreds of super fans who will help shape the rulebook. This will come in the form of AMAs and video broadcasts.

We are excited to bring you an entire league of fan-controlled football – but first, we need to set the rules.

So join us on Facebook, and Twitter, and let us know: what is a catch?

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Power to the FANS, with Jesse Schwartzman

Here at the FCFL, we are trying to create the most immersive fan experience ever delivered by a professional sports league, tailoring every element of action (from team design to player selection to in-game strategy) to match how fans in 2018 want to consume their football. We want to merge the best elements of video-gaming, like control over outcomes and tangible reward systems, with the best elements of pro football, like high-skilled competition and captivating personalities and storylines.

We also understand that this concept is bold, wild, and weird. It is sometimes confusing to those learning about it for the first time, and even for those who understand it conceptually, it seems almost too futuristic (like Black Mirror doing a football episode). But what we have found from listening to the thousands of active play-callers from the 2017 season of the Salt Lake Screaming Eagles is that once you give it a try, once you are at the helm calling plays in real-time, you immediately get it. A little taste of the good stuff, and there’s no going back.

Given the integral role fans will play in the FCFL, it is crucial to understand what is so appealing to the user. What is it like to be a fan-controlled football fan?

So, I think it best to introduce you, the loyal FCFL supporter, to some of the most impassioned fans who supported the FCFL’s proof of concept, the Salt Lake Screaming Eagles, that played in the Indoor Football League during the 2017 season.

Today we hear from a Screaming Eagle original and power fan – Jesse Schwartzman.

How did you first learn about the Screaming Eagles?

I first found out about the Screaming Eagles from a sponsored Facebook post (yes, those actually work).

What is your most fond memory as a digital coach/manager/play-caller?

My fondest memory is calling a play that turned into a touchdown from my seat at the first Screaming Eagles home game ever! I jumped on the field after that first touchdown and high fived some of the players and Co-Founder Ray Austin!

When did you realize you were hooked? What made you realize this?

I realized I was hooked after that first home game. I thrived on the passion in the stands and on the message board. I called plays every game during the season!

What changes would you like to see with the FCFL from the Indoor Football League experience?

No more kickers! We lost some games due to multiple kickers. 1 minute max on instant replays. The pace of the game is important and should not be disrupted!

Special teams: keep them or ditch them?

DITCH THEM

When the FCFL kicks off, are you going to stick with the Screaming Eagles, or choose to support a new team?

The Screaming Eagles have one of the coolest logos in sports and I feel attached to them but I love to build and develop teams from scratch. I look forward to joining one of the new teams front office!

Which player would you most want to see join the FCFL?

We need to bring back at least one of the superstars of last year’s Screaming Eagles! I would love to see Verlon Reed in the FCFL!

What is your favorite sports video game?

MADDEN

Thanks for the input, Jesse!

If you have any interesting questions you’d like to have answered by fans in subsequent interviews, or if you are a Screaming Eagles fan who would like to lend your voice to our blog, please let us know!

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NFL Gamers, featuring Aaron Beasley

Here at the FCFL, we LOVE us some video game action (especially Patrick – check out his gaming podcast Pixel by Pixel if you’ve got some time!). In fact, our (slight) addictions to Madden Football are what helped spawn the idea of fan-controlled football in the first place.

As it turns out, we are not alone! Spoiler Alert: a LOT of people play Madden just as hardcore as we do; some even more so. In fact, many of the real players captured on your screen in pixelated form are just as crazy about gaming as you and I. The NFL is filled with guys who drag their XBox on road trips just to get their fix in the hotel. Some would even say that it is integral to their pregame routine.

As we lead up to the launch of our opening kickoff, we will be speaking with several NFL players, both current and former, to learn about their gaming habits and why they love Madden so much. Who knows, perhaps we will even unearth a couple future FCFL power fans!

Last week, we spoke with former pro bowler Walt Harris. Today, we hear from former Jaguars star cornerback Aaron Beasley.

After playing his college ball at West Virginia University, where he was a first-team All American, leading the nation with ten interceptions, Aaron was drafted by Jacksonville in the third round of the 1996 NFL Draft. He played nine seasons across three franchises, but the majority of his 105 career starts came with the Jaguars. In 2009, Aaron was inducted into the West Virginia University Sports Hall of Fame.

As you will soon learn, Aaron is also a MASSIVE gamer, with some impressive Madden franchise mode tendencies.

Let’s find out about his gaming habits-

When did you first start playing Madden?

When did the first Madden come out? That was on Sega Genesis or something like that, wasn’t that the first Madden?

Which team is your go-to?

Back in the day, it was the Cincinnati Bengals with James Brooks and Boomer Esiason. I remember James Brooks; he was a running back but you could use him as a receiver. I’d do that little angle route (boop, BOOP!)

As for today, I really don’t like playing with regular teams. I always do a fantasy draft and pick my own team. When Ray Austin told me about fan-controlled football and fan choice, I was like – yo, this is like Madden, but with real people!

Do you have a favorite year or device that you prefer (e.g. X-Box, Playstation, etc)?

I’m an Xbox One guy. I’d still go with Genesis, but they don’t make’m anymore!

The Madden cover jinx… real or #fakenews?

Umm… I think, until recently, it was real… But Brady is a quarterback, so quarterbacks are different. They don’t get hurt as much. But I know it did happen to Donovan McNabb, so I’d say it’s real. It’s like an 80% rate of injury!

Who’s your all-time favorite video game football player, Madden or otherwise (like Bo Jackson in Tecmo Bowl or Michael Vick in Madden 2001)?

I would have to say Lawrence Taylor on Tecmo Bowl (editor’s note: this is a savvy choice. LT was DOMINANT off the snap). Maybe Walter Payton on Tecmo Bowl too. Oh man… But I’m a defensive guy, so I gotta go with Lawrence Taylor.

Franchise mode or exhibition game?

All franchise mode. I never play exhibition games. I will sit around my house for hours just putting my team together and not even playing games. Being a former football player, that’s like chess to me: building up a team from zero and trying to win a Super Bowl. That’s like the ultimate chess game to me.

Do you ever visit the online forums or Reddit threads about Madden or other video games?

I’m old school. The thing is, I do some stuff with other video games. I go to Las Vegas as part of The Pros vs. the GI Joes (hosted by the Joint Forces Initiative) which is a nonprofit gaming community where celebrities and former NFL guys will play against Army vets in video games. I’ve been to New York, Las Vegas, E3, doing things with video games. I’m a Madden-head, but I’m a VIDEO GAMER.

Who is the best Madden player in the NFL that you have played against?

Me! I can’t put nobody next to me.

I would say, my boy [former Cowboys, Saints, and Falcons cornerback] Kevin Mathis.I had to stop playing because he whipped me so bad. I’m a football guy where, on fourth down, I’m punting. If it’s fourth and inches, I probably punt cuz I like to play a real game. But he kept going for it on fourth down, and I said, ‘you know what? I’m done. I’m playin against a former NFL player, and you play like that?’

There are supposed to be unwritten rules about fourth down, you know? I like the true simulation of the football experience.

Do you ever play Madden games online against strangers? What’s your trash talk game like?

Nah, I only play in person against my friends. I’ve got six franchises right now that I’m playing on Madden. I’ve got a one-team franchise, I’ve got one with three guys, one with six. I actually played and won a 32-team Madden franchise, and they played every game every day, so if you didn’t play the game, you got skipped.

Be real for a second… have you ever edited yourself in the game to increase your settings? And if so, what did you change?

OF COURSE. I added speed and acceleration. That’s all I did, I didn’t add anything else, just my speed. My speed was never right.

Do the guys in charge of player ratings do a good job, in your opinion?

They don’t look at game speed; they look at 40 times. I had game speed, you can’t teach that.

If the Madden experience were to be applied to REAL FOOTBALL, would you call plays? Why?

When the FCFL debuts, I’m just gonna be a coach. I just want to coach all the defensive backs and let the fans make the calls. The concept is GREAT. I told Tony Dorsett, and he was like: ‘yo, I wanna talk to them!’

Editor’s note: Hey Tony, our line is open for you whenever you’d like to chat!

(Thanks again to Aaron for sharing his time and thoughts!)

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Power to the FANS, with Hugo Boutin

Here at the FCFL, we are trying to create the most immersive fan experience ever delivered by a professional sports league, tailoring every element of action (from team design to player selection to in-game strategy) to match how fans in 2018 want to consume their football. We want to merge the best elements of video-gaming, like control over outcomes and tangible reward systems, with the best elements of pro football, like high-skilled competition and captivating personalities and storylines.

We also understand that this concept is bold, wild, and weird. It is sometimes confusing to those learning about it for the first time, and even for those who understand it conceptually, it seems almost too futuristic (like Black Mirror doing a football episode). But what I have personally come to learn quickly within my time working on fan-controlled football is that once you actually strap in and give it a try, once you are at the helm calling plays in real-time, you immediately get it. A little taste of the good stuff, and there’s no going back.

Given the integral role fans will play in the FCFL, it is crucial to understand what is so appealing to the user. What is it like to be a fan-controlled football fan?

So, I think it best to introduce you, the loyal FCFL supporter, to some of the most impassioned fans who supported the FCFL’s proof of concept, the Salt Lake Screaming Eagles, that played in the Indoor Football League during the 2017 season.

When I first started working with what would become the FCFL a few months ago and asked about getting to speak with some of the fans, our CEO Sohrob Farudi immediately said: ‘oh, you gotta talk to this guy Hugo. Lives in France, huge sports fan, loves crypto, totally gets what we are building, and was one of our best supporters.’ The fact that individual fans across the globe can make such a substantive impact on league operations is exactly what I love about the dream of the FCFL. The top performing fans should be known entities, just like the top coaches and the top players. In the FCFL circles, Hugo is a known entity. You can find him on Twitter @HugoBoutinFr.

Hugo is the founder of Naval Sports (@navalsportsco), a sports brand that he was inspired to create by his own grandfather, who in 1954 left his first division basketball team to start his own team with friends. That upstart squad wound up rising the ranks and ultimately facing the team he had left during the Wild Derby tournament. Hugo carries a strong passion for the evolution of sports, and particularly the way it is consumed by players and fans alike.

So it was only right that we bring him in for our first fan interview (below image is Hugo playing on the world’s oldest basketball court, which is located in a YMCA basement in Paris). Here goes!

How did you first learn about the Screaming Eagles?

I learned about the Screaming Eagles thanks to Indiegogo. Back then, the team didn’t even have a name, logo, coach or players (these would be voted on by the early fans). It is amazing to see how quickly and successfully the concept grew up. The opportunity to be one of the first fans to support the project was just too good not to get involved!

What is your most fond memory as a digital coach/manager/play-caller?

It is very hard to pick one, but I think it was when all the associate coaches were on a weekly meeting with the head coach. We could share our opinions on the playbook, which is something that I couldn’t have done with any other team. There was even a play called Paris (where I live)! When the app was officially launched, and the idea became a reality, was definitely one of the best moments too.

When did you realize you were hooked? What made you realize this?

When I started to do video-call meetings with the team late in the night due to the time difference, and waking up during the nights for some games, made me realize I was really hooked. That was a level of engagement I had never experienced with one of my sports teams before. I was truly committed to the team.

What changes would you like to see with the FCFL from the Indoor Football League experience?

I think it is essential that all teams are on the same fan-based model in order to compete on the same level. The FCFL will definitely provide that experience. There will be more fan-driven competition, whereas before it was more the fans competing against regular teams, so there was an element of competition missing in terms of who was actually your opponent. The FAN Token will also help the fan get more power and drive more rewards, I think.

Special teams: keep them or ditch them?

That’s a good question. I don’t have a strong opinion on it because the two solutions present benefits and drawbacks. The only good answer is: let the fans decide! (editor’s note: this man knows his audience!)

When the FCFL kicks off, are you going to stick with the Screaming Eagles, or choose to support a new team?

As I followed the team since its birth, I’ll stick with the Screaming Eagles. They did a great job last year and I love the reference in the name and the logo.

Which player would you most want to see join the FCFL?

Wide Receiver Anthony Dable, who has played with both the New York Giants and the Atlanta Falcons. Gotta get someone to represent France! And interesting note on Anthony: he first learned about the NFL in his teenage years by playing Nintendo!

What is your favorite sports video game?

Madden, of course!

A big thank you to Hugo for being the guinea pig for this fan interview experiment. Watch out for his name on top of the 2018 Fan Leaderboard repping the Screaming Eagles! If you have any interesting questions you’d like to have answered by fans in subsequent interviews, or if you are a Screaming Eagles fan who would like to lend your voice to our blog, please let us know!

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NFL Gamers, featuring Walt Harris

Here at the FCFL, we LOVE us some video game action (especially Patrick – check out his gaming podcast Pixel by Pixel if you’ve got some time!). In fact, our (slight) addictions to Madden Football are what helped spawn the idea of fan-controlled football in the first place.

As it turns out, we are not alone! Spoiler Alert: a LOT of people play Madden just as hardcore as we do; some even moreso. In fact, many of the real players captured on your screen in pixelated form are just as crazy about gaming as you and I. The NFL is filled with guys who drag their Xbox on road trips just to get their fix in the hotel. Some would even say that it is integral to their pregame routine.

As we lead up to the launch of our opening kickoff, we will be speaking with several NFL players, both current and former, to learn about their gaming habits and why they love Madden so much. Who knows, perhaps we will even unearth a couple future FCFL power fans!

First up in our list of interview subjects is former pro bowl cornerback Walt Harris.

After playing his college ball at Mississippi State University, Walt was taken with the 13th pick of the 1996 NFL draft by the Chicago Bears, where he started for six years before departing via free agency. Walt would go on to play 13 seasons in the NFL across four teams, including two pro bowl years with the San Francisco 49ers in 2006 and 2007. He retired with 35 career interceptions. It was once said that two thirds of the world was covered by water; the rest was covered by Walt Harris.

Walt is also a big-time gamer, and his specialty, of course, is Madden Football.

Let’s find out about his gaming habits-

When did you first start playing Madden?

Right around when I entered the league, in 1996. Way back in the day.

Which team is your go-to?

I usually go with the St. Louis Rams. Give it to Gurley and run wild.

Do you have a favorite year or device that you prefer (e.g. X-Box, Playstation, etc)?

I’ve always been a PlayStation guy.

The Madden cover jinx… real or #fakenews?

FAKENEWS (editor’s note: Given that 2017 cover boy Tom Brady is about to win the MVP, this seems accurate)

Who’s your all-time favorite video game football player, Madden or otherwise (like Bo Jackson in Tecmo Bowl or Michael Vick in Madden 2001)?

Well since I’m a Rams guy, gotta go Marshall Faulk. A stud running back and receiver in one package.

Franchise mode or exhibition game?

Exhibition. I like to play the games and leave the managing to the GMs.

Do you ever visit the online forums or Reddit threads about Madden or other video games?

Not really. I’m more old-school; a purist.

Who is the best Madden player in the NFL that you have played against?

That would be (former Giants and Raiders d-back) Johnnie Harris. We played together at Mississippi State.

Do you ever play Madden games online against strangers?

Oh yes. Great way to get a competitive game going when no one else is around.

What’s your trash talk game like?

I’m not a trash talker. I let my game do the talking.

Be real for a second… have you ever edited yourself in the game to increase your settings? And if so, what did you change?

No, I like to stay true… however, that can always change.

Do the guys in charge of player ratings do a good job, in your opinion?

I think it’s been pretty fair.

If the Madden experience were to be applied to REAL FOOTBALL, would you call plays? Why?

Absolutely!! Because that makes it even more real and competitive.

(Thanks again to Walt for sharing his time and thoughts!)

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What Makes the FCFL Different? Part Three

The major professional sports leagues offer an incredible product. We love them. We consume them with unbridled and unapologetic enthusiasm ourselves. Monday Night Football, Christmas NBA triple headers; NHL Playoffs – these are institutions, baked into the very fabric of our lives, both digital and real. They showcase the best talent in their respective sports that the world has to offer. What’s not to like?

They are also rooted in mythology, which has its pros and cons. On the positive side, these leagues have a palpable sense of lore associated with them. Just hearing the NFL Films orchestra sets off a pavlovian response mechanism that gets our blood pumping and our stomachs craving buffalo wings. They have a unique history shared by their fans and players alike; a tangible narrative with which to entertain their consumers. Cowboys and Niners, Yankees and Red Sox, Wilt’s 100 points and Broadway Joe’s victorious prediction.

They have tradition.

But tradition also carries with it some encumbrances. They are tied to it and slow to adapt from it, even when doing so would be an obvious win for their organization. They constantly worry about change and how it will affect the relationship with their fans. Even something as seemingly mundane as putting an advertisement on a jersey is celebrated as monumental innovation. The idea of technological shift isn’t just unfathomable to these leagues; it would represent a complete deviation from the story they have told for decades. They are tethered to their old-school operations like a ship to a dock because at the very core of their value proposition is the story. The narrative that often carries more value to the act of fanaticism than does the very quality of play on the field. They simply cannot do what we can do.

We will foster more innovative approaches to sports media than can the major existing professional leagues. Let’s take a look at how:

Part Three: We are building our games with production of the digital audience at the core

Going to a major pro sports game is a hell of a time.

The intensity, the comradery, the tailgates that last longer than the games themselves. The thrill of victory; the agony of defeat. It’s a whirlwind of emotions and borderline sensory overload, with flavors and noises and visual stimuli abound (but no chicken sandwiches for Falcons fans on Sundays).

You also must suffer through hours of traffic, both coming and going, fees in the hundreds of dollars for parking and tickets and hot dogs and drinks and programs and peanuts, snaking lines of people in desperate need of a toilet, wind and rain and snow and heat and cold, all from the comforts of your stiff seat in the third deck that’s always suspiciously warm when you first sit down. And when you do find your seat and start watching the game, you realize how difficult it is to follow the action from such a distance. You find yourself watching the game on the jumbotron, or scrolling your phone to check the action from the other games. For all the money and energy you put into attending the game, you wind up watching very little of the actual game itself; and by the fourth quarter, you remember how badly you wish you were on your couch watching a professional broadcast checking your fantasy matchup with your phone plugged into a charger.

And your shoes are squishy and smell of overpriced light beer for the rest of the week.

Most leagues are built primarily for an in-person audience, with massive stadiums seating up to 100,000 fans at a time. And while technological enhancements like HDTV have certainly improved the viewing experience for those not in the stadium, video content has remained fairly static over the years. The leagues have developed a phenomenal product, and they are resistant to tinker with it very much at all.

At the FCFL, we are not only prepared to embrace technology as part of the production strategy; we are specifically building our game with video capture at the heart of the action. Rather than give each team a home stadium for fans, we will be building one arena that will serve as a production studio specifically outfitted for video capture of all kinds. Each of our games will be played consecutively at the studio: think American Ninja Warrior, but for football. By focusing our on-field production on the digital experience, we will be able to integrate all sorts of new camera technology into our games. Helmet cams, drone cams, cams of all kind. Wearable sensors and in-arena technology – even embedded in the game ball itself – will provide a constant stream of data to enhance broadcasts and push the envelope of football analytics, helping fans make the best possible decisions from roster moves to play calls.

Both the FCFL and the Studio Arena will serve as a sports technology “playground” for emerging technology in sports and entertainment. We will make all content readily available and consumable for the fans who, after all, also make up our coaching staffs. Data will flow through our app like a Tom Brady offense during a two-minute drill.

We can’t wait to get the season underway and showcase all of the innovations we have in store for your fan experience, but there is more work to be done first!

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What Makes the FCFL Different? Part Two

The major professional sports leagues offer an incredible product. We love them. We consume them with unbridled and unapologetic enthusiasm ourselves. Monday Night Football, Christmas NBA triple headers; NHL Playoffs – these are institutions, baked into the very fabric of our lives, both digital and real. They showcase the best talent in their respective sports that the world has to offer. What’s not to like?

They are also rooted in mythology, which has its pros and cons. On the positive side, these leagues have a palpable sense of lore associated with them. Just hearing the NFL Films orchestra sets off a pavlovian response mechanism that gets our blood pumping and our stomachs craving buffalo wings. They have a unique history shared by their fans and players alike; a tangible narrative with which to entertain their consumers. Cowboys and Niners, Yankees and Red Sox, Wilt’s 100 points and Broadway Joe’s victorious prediction.

They have tradition.

But tradition also carries with it some encumbrances. They are tied to it and slow to adapt from it, even when doing so would be an obvious win for their organization. They constantly worry about change and how it will affect the relationship with their fans. Even something as seemingly mundane as putting an advertisement on a jerseyis celebrated as monumental innovation. The idea of technological shift isn’t just unfathomable to these leagues; it would represent a complete deviation from the story they have told for decades. They are tethered to their old-school operations like a ship to a dock because at the very core of their value proposition is the story. The narrative that often carries more value to the act of fanaticism than does the very quality of play on the field. They simply cannot do what we can do.

We will foster more innovative approaches to sports media than can the major existing professional leagues. Let’s take a look at how:

Part Two: The videogame revolution is not just upon us; it’s been here for quite a while

If you are interested in what the FCFL is building, there’s a good chance that you are familiar with the role of video games within the fan experience. They’ve been pivotal to each league’s narrative and ongoing engagement with fans since ataris began permeating American living rooms in the eighties (millenials, ask your parents). Even things like the original electronic football, which traces its roots to the 1940s, served the practical purpose of providing a simulation of the game over which you had a bit of control (our tech is a bit more advanced).

Football has Madden, NFL Blitz, and (our favorite) Tecmo Bowl. Hockey has EA NHL and Wayne Gretzky Hockey. Baseball has RBI Baseball, MLB2K, and Out Of The Park. Basketball has NBA Jam, NBA Live, and NBA 2K. We’ve burned as many hours (and possibly more) jamming our thumbs into controllers playing these games than we have watching the very leagues that they mimic. Some of the nerdiest among us spent entire semesters of college engrossed in franchise and dynasty modes, not even playing the actual games but rather acting solely as GM (spoiler alert: NCAA Football 2005 for PS2 caps you at 60 seasons).

Video games have long represented an additional outlet for fandom, and with the rise of Esports, we are seeing a further push for digital consumption of competition. Some analysts project the Esports market to reach over a billion dollars by 2020, and it already has its own ESPN page and the largest tournament purses in competitive sports. The Screaming Eagles demonstrated that our fan-centric approach to real football has great crossover appeal within the Esports community, as our partnership with Amazon’s Twitch helped generate over 100,000 active fans from over 100 countries in our first season.

So while soccer has FIFA, the FCFL has… the FCFL! Our fan-driven gameplay will essentially replicate its own football simulation. You are still making the play calls, but now instead of an electronic avatar running your option route, you will see a former SEC world-class athlete making the play.

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What Makes the FCFL Different?

The major professional sports leagues offer an incredible product. We love them. We consume them with unbridled and unapologetic enthusiasm ourselves. Monday Night Football, Christmas NBA triple headers; NHL Playoffs – these are institutions, baked into the very fabric of our lives, both digital and real. They showcase the best talent in their respective sports that the world has to offer. What’s not to like?

They are also rooted in mythology, which has its pros and cons. On the positive side, these leagues have a palpable sense of lore associated with them. Just hearing the NFL Films orchestra sets off a pavlovian response mechanism that gets our blood pumping and our stomachs craving buffalo wings. They have a unique history shared by their fans and players alike; a tangible narrative with which to entertain their consumers. Cowboys and Niners, Yankees and Red Sox, Wilt’s 100 points and Broadway Joe’s victorious prediction.

They have tradition.

But tradition also carries with it some encumbrances. They are tied to it and slow to adapt from it, even when doing so would be an obvious win for their organization. They constantly worry about change and how it will affect the relationship with their fans. Even something as seemingly mundane as putting an advertisement on a jerseyis celebrated as monumental innovation. The idea of technological shift isn’t just unfathomable to these leagues; it would represent a complete deviation from the story they have told for decades. They are tethered to their old-school operations like a ship to a dock because at the very core of their value proposition is the story. The narrative that often carries more value to the act of fanaticism than does the very quality of play on the field. They simply cannot do what we can do.

We will foster more innovative approaches to sports media than can the major existing professional leagues. Let’s take a look at how:

Part One: FCFL fans are not just the audience; they are part of the product

Our value proposition to fans, while lacking in lore and rich history, is, frankly, more pure. I’m guessing this scenario has happened to you before:

You: What a win last night. I’m pumped about this season, I think we have a shot at the division. Our press coverage was on point, we can really shut down quick receivers at the line of scrimmage.

Annoying Friend Who Roots For a Different Team: ‘We?’ Oh, I didn’t realize YOU were playing cornerback last night. Or did you forget that you aren’t actually on the team?

Everyone hates that friend, but in their defense, their team probably hasn’t made the playoffs since the Tagliabue era. They’re irritated, and they know there’s nothing they can do but sit back and watch as the coach mismanages two-minute drills, the GM botches draft picks, and the owner doesn’t care enough to make a change. They mask their envy of your team’s superior press coverage with snarls and bared fangs. And the truth is, they are right.

You aren’t part of the team; you are just caught up in the narrative, and you know it. The innocent joy of fandom erodes just a tad. But then you remember why they are so bitter and you go on cheering those defensive backs with fervent joy.

The FCFL fan, however, is quite literally part of the ‘We.’ It’s an entirely different relationship than the one you have with teams you’ve loved since childhood; less emotional, more practical, equally fun. You are picking the players, you are calling the plays: your insights and decision-making on your screen are core to the outcome on the field. And with features like the FCFL Fan Leaderboard, you can even quantify just how impactful of a fan you are to your team.

And when your annoying friend tries to discredit your FCFL fandom, you can turn around and say: ‘While I did not play cornerback myself last night, I did help scout the guy playing in the slot, and I called the play that generated the pick-six in the fourth quarter. How did your team do again?’

Oh, as a reminder, the top fans will even get a split of the $1,000,000+ championship purse with the winning team…

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What Would the Fans Call? BEAST MODE

At the FCFL, we are giving fans control over every aspect of football management. Perhaps most importantly, this will include voting on all offensive play calls, which will then be relayed to the quarterback in real time. While the app will serve up a handful of predetermined play options based on down, distance, and situation with the input and design of the coaching staff, the fans will ultimately be tasked with making the right call.

And who among us has not stood up and screamed at the offensive coordinator of our favorite team from time to time?

Even the Don Coryell’s and Bill Walsh’s of the world, brilliant offensive minds who changed the way the game is played, have gotten over their ski tips on occasion and made the wrong call. It happens to the best of them. That’s why the input of thousands of fans could prove so valuable: it helps suppress the dumber urges and more indefensible tendencies of the individuals.

Over the coming weeks, we will be spotlighting some of the more questionable play calls in football history, and examining what the fans might have done instead.

To kick off this series, let’s take a look at (what else?): the infamous pass of Super Bowl XLIX.

The Situation:

Well, it’s the Super Bowl. The biggest game of the year. The league’s two best teams, each seeded #1 in their respective conferences, squaring off on the big stage. The defending champion Seattle Seahawks, fresh off the biggest beat-down in Super Bowl history when they absolutely dismantled the Denver Broncos the previous year, vs. the New England Patriots and their all-time great coach/QB duo of Belichick and Brady. Seattle Head Coach Pete Carroll looking to exact revenge against the team that fired him back in the 90’s (making way for the Belichick rise).

This game had immense hype. The action on the field surpassed it all.

The Seahawks vaunted Legion of Boom defense (featuring perhaps the greatest defensive backfield of all time in their prime, with names like Thomas, Sherman, and Chancellor, as well as other superstar defenders like Michael Bennett and Bobby Wagner) had the Patriots on the ropes for three quarters… but you can only hold down Brady, Edelman, and Gronkowski for so long.

Seattle took a 24-14 lead into the fourth quarter – no team at that time had EVER overcome a double-digit lead in a Super Bowl – before Brady got to cookin’. Two drives and two touchdowns later, the Patriots erased the deficit and snatched a 28-24 lead.

But there was still time on the clock, and Seattle had budding star Russell Wilson at QB and the legendary BEAST MODE in the backfield.

Seattle took over with two minutes on the clock from their own 20-yard line, and immediately set the tone with a 30-yard wheel route to Marshawn Lynch (who was not exactly known as a receiving threat). Then came a miracle: Russell Wilson floated a deep ball down the sideline, which was tipped by then little-known undrafted rookie Malcolm Butler… and somehow landed right on top of WR Jermaine Kearse, who was lying down on the ground.

Utter mayhem.

Fortunately for New England, Butler realized what had happened and prevented Kearse from going any farther. But damage was done. Seattle was in prime position with goal to go and the best short-distance power runner in the game. Just a minute to play.

The next play was a handoff to Marshawn, who powered his way down to the one-yard line, before being tackled by Dont’a Hightower. Since New England did not call a timeout, Seattle was able to run the clock down to 26 seconds before taking the snap for the next play.

That’s when some of the most famous words in Patriots history were shouted: Malcolm, GO!

What followed will live in infamy as one of the most questioned play-call decisions in football history.

The Play

The Seahawks called a pass play in which Kearse would run a pick on the right side of the field to draw defensive backs away from Tyler Lockette as Lockette ran a slant to the middle. But the Patriots knew what was coming, and former Seahawk Legion of Boomer Brandon Browner blocked Kearse at the line of scrimmage, creating space for Malcolm Butler to break on thee ball. Lockette appeared to be uncovered at the one-yard line when Wilson threw him the ball, but before the ball arrived, Butler correctly read the play and rushed into position to make the interception.

Game, Patriots.

Following the play, commentator Chris Collinsworth stated, “I’m sorry, but I can’t believe the call. I cannot believe the call. You’ve got Marshawn Lynch in the backfield. You’ve got a guy that has been borderline unstoppable in this part of the field. I can’t believe the call.” He further added, “If I lose the Super Bowl because Marshawn Lynch can’t get it in from the 1-yard line, so be it. So be it! But there is no way… I don’t believe the call.” He was not alone in his critique. From Peter King, to Deion Sanders, to Emmitt Smith, to most of Twitter, Pete Carroll was roundly ridiculed for not giving the ball to Beast Mode. Though some defended, citing the time remaining as an issue in case Lynch was stoppd short, and of course the fact that Russell Wilson is no slouch of a weapon, this play call immediately became the most questioned decision in pro football history.

What would the fans have called?

Easy. Line up in a heavy set, multiple tight ends on the line, and pound that rock right up the middle, where Marshawn would have picked up and thrown any defender in his path right out of the stadium on his way toward the end zone. Seattle wins and makes history as back-to-back champs.

…Or, of course, he gets stopped short, Seattle is forced to rush its next play with time a-tickin’, and the Patriots defense, renowned for its stifling play in the red zone, holds strong.

…Or, who knows? Marshawn scores, Brady gets the ball with 20 seconds remaining, and somehow managed to pull out a victory. Because, Patriots.

Either way, it is safe to say the fans would’ve voted BEAST MODE 100 times out of 100.

What would you have called?